Monday, August 17, 2015

Preface


Below are eight translations of the last chapter of the Ashtavakra’s Gita by Thomas Byrom, Bart Marshall, Manuel Schoch, John Richards, Ramesh S. Balsekar​, ​Ananda Wood​, ​ Vedic Scriptures, and Hari Prasad Shastri.

From Wikipedia:

The Ashtavakra Gita (Sanskrit in Devanagari: अष्टावक्रगीता; IAST: aṣṭāvakragītā) or the Song of Ashtavakra is a classical Advaita Vedanta scripture. It is written as a dialogue between the sage Ashtavakra and Janaka, king of Mithila.

Radhakamal Mukerjee, an Indian social scientist, dated the book to the period immediately after the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita (c. 500–400 BC). J. L. Brockington, emeritus professor of Sanskrit at the University of Edinburgh, places the Ashtavakra Gita much later, supposing it to have been written either in the eighth century CE by a follower of Shankara, or in the fourteenth century during a resurgence of Shankara's teaching. Sri Swami Shantananda Puri suggests that since the book contains the seed of the theory of non-creation Ajata Vada developed later by Gaudapada in Mandookya Karika, this book comes from a period prior to that of Gaudapada and hence prior to Adi Shankara.

Ashtavakra is probably identical to the holy sage with the same name who appears in Mahabharata, though the connection is not clearly stated in any of the texts. Mukherjee identifies Janaka as the father of Sita and disciple of the sage Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Janaka is also depicted as a king who has attained perfection in the Bhagavad Gita.

Ashtavakra Gita is a dialogue between Ashtavakra and Janaka on the nature of soul, reality and bondage. It offers a radical version of non-dualistic philosophy. The Gita insists on the complete unreality of external world and absolute oneness of existence. It does not mention any morality or duties, and therefore is seen by commentators as 'godless'. It also dismisses names and forms as unreal and a sign of ignorance.

In a conversation between Janaka and Ashtavakra, pertaining to the deformity of his crooked body, Ashtavakra explains that the size of a Temple is not affected by how it is shaped, and the shape of his own body does not affect himself (or Atman). The ignorant man's vision is shrouded by names and forms, but a wise man sees only himself:

You are really unbound and action-less, self-illuminating and spotless already. The cause of your bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling the mind. (I.15)

You are unconditioned and changeless, formless and immovable, unfathomable awareness, imperturbable- such consciousness is un-clinging. (I.17)

You are not bound by anything. What does a pure person like you need to renounce? Putting the complex organism to rest, you can go to your rest. (V.1)